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Congress approves increases for the Osage Nation’s sales tax, liquor tax and hotel lodging tax

Up two percentage points from the previous 5% sales tax, the 7% rate took effect after Congress passed several tax code amendments in bill ONCA 23-52

The Osage Nation Tax Commission is now charging a 7% rate on sales tax, liquor tax and hotel lodging tax after the Eighth ON Congress approved several amendments to the Nation’s tax code, including the tax increases to raise more government revenue.

Up two percentage points from the previous 5% sales tax, the 7% rate took effect after Congress passed several tax code amendments in bill ONCA 23-52 and the liquor tax increase in bill ONCA 23-53 (both sponsored by Congresswoman Jodie Revard) during the 2023 Hun-Kah Session.

Before the vote on ONCA 23-52, Revard told Congress “The sales tax and the lodging tax would increase the sales tax rate from 5% to 7% and this increase will increase our revenue, of course, and the costs would be passed onto the consumer for our products and our merchandise. It also would put us in a competitive range compared to the surrounding tribal nations.”

On ONCA 23-53, Revard said the increased liquor tax will match the new sales tax and lodging tax rates as well.

Jennifer Oberly, Tax Commission executive director, discussed the proposed law changes with the Congressional Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee during the session. She spoke on behalf of her office and the Tax Commission board, which reviewed the law for the proposed changes. The board currently has three members including Teresa Bates Rutherford (chair), Beverly Brownfield (vice chair) and Rhonda Wallace (secretary). 

Oberly said the Nation’s 5% sales tax rate had not changed since the Nation’s reformed government started in 2006. “So, we went and did a comparison to see how we fared against the state and against neighboring tribes … On our list of 8-9 entities, we are the lowest when it comes to sales tax with, of course, Oklahoma being the highest,” she told the committee.

“With that, we also looked at the lodging tax rate, and also the liquor tax” Oberly said. “What we wanted to do is another straight across the board, we are now at 5% on everything and we are proposing to raise that up to 7% across the board. It doesn’t make us the highest, but it does bring us up from being the absolute lowest.”

With the proposed tax increases, Oberly said the Nation could see an increase of $400,000 with the rates in effect based on the prior year’s revenue.

Oberly also noted the Nation will start collecting more lodging tax once the new Osage Casinos at Bartlesville and Pawhuska open later this year with their respective hotels. The Nation collects lodging tax on guest room visits at the Ponca City, Skiatook and Tulsa casino properties, which do have hotels.

Oberly said the sales tax will largely come from those who visit the Nation’s seven Osage Casino properties, eat and drink at the casino, as well as stay in the hotels and shop in the gift stores or convenience stores.  

Congress passed both bills on April 18 and they were then vetoed by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. In his veto message, Standing Bear cited concerns he believed there was no documentation on public input by taxpayers who would be impacted by ONCA 23-52. In a separate veto message, Standing Bear said he vetoed ONCA 23-53 because “Legal Counsel has advised me the alternative effective date on this bill would make it effective prior to Department of Interior approval, which is a violation of established federal law and policies on the regulation of liquor on Indian land.”

Revard said she disagreed with the veto messages, noting ONCA 23-52 went through the public legislative process and a committee meeting was held and open to the public for initial legislation consideration and no one objected to the bill. For ONCA 23-53, Revard said the Tax Commission does not intend to enforce the amended law until it has been published in the Federal Register and there was opportunity for the Executive Branch to offer amendments during the legislative process.

Revard made motions to override both bills’ vetoes, which passed with each receiving a 10-1 vote to take effect. Both veto overrides received one “no” from Congressman John Maker and one absence from Congressman Eli Potts at the time. For more information on vehicle registration and other Tax Commission services visit the ON website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/tax-commission

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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